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Sorting

As I look around it seems like everything I can lay my eyes on needs sorting. My purse is bulging with receipts and business cards and who knows what else. My back pack needs to be dumped and reorganized before I leave on the next trip.

And speaking of travel, there are clothes that need sorting as my wardrobe makes the shift from winter to spring in two regions of the country.

We are in the midst of interior painting and re-covering all the floors in our house after more than 10 years of living here. So pretty much everything in every room is in flux. Okay, chaos. The usual flow of toys, laundry, books, and mail are mixed in with rearranged furniture, paint paraphernalia, bags for Goodwill, stacks to go to church. Frankly I can’t even identify it all right now.

Then there are the work projects, which mostly need sorting in my mind and on my computer.  Make that computers because I’m trying to transition from PC to Mac and it’s taking longer than I’d hoped. It’s me. I’ve got too much momentum to maintain on too many things to stop and sort out all the projects.

And then there is the current book chapter. Sorting data is always underway. This week with a narrative complete, it was time to cut apart the story and spread it out in rows on my office floor so that I could see what else needed to be layered into the story. More sorting.

Just making this partial list, I see as I’ve seen many times in my life, I need less. I need to sort more things out the door and into the recycling bin. I need to give it away and I need not to accumulate it to begin with.

And the week’s world and local events need some sorting, too. In recent days the news has included a royal wedding, the assassination of Osama bin Laden, and the moral ambivalence over how exactly to respond to it, recovery from a record number of tornadoes sweeping over the Southern US, epic flooding of the Mississippi River and many of the rivers that feed it, more fatalities in wars and uprisings in Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. All of the news each week needs sorting out, too. What needs knowing, what needs understanding or action, resistance or dispute, to be ignored?

One of the blocks to letting go of stuff for me is that I think I can do it all at once when it really works better for me to  make it a way of life . . . cleaning out and sorting, filing and culling the waste needs to be a regular part of my daily round of work and care. If I make it into a project it just grows into an unmanageable mess. If I integrate the habit of letting it go each day, several times a day, I feel better and my life is less cluttered. I can focus more easily on what is important and deserving of my time.

The enclosure of discipline (as opposed to the false liberty of doing just as I please with no thought of the consequences) has many gifts and rewards. The discipline of sorting sounds trivial. Yet my experience tells me that when I have sorted through either my interior world or my physical surrounding or both, other important things fall more easily into place.

To sort through the barrage of daily events and news, local, national, international, and many subsets therein. . . well, it’s a challenge all its own. And most of it feels too large to sort, and some of it too important to ignore.

One significant aspect of sorting, of disciplined enclosure, for me is to practice Sabbath. To take the better part of a day each week and give no thought to the work of my house, my job, my church, my country, my world. Instead that one day each week is to worship, play, enjoy and rest. And to lay the sorting down. Leave it up to God. I turn off things, try not to buy much, hold off working and cleaning, and fast from electronic connection. My goal for the last five years has been to do this from Saturday evening (now it follows the time my blog posts) until after supper on Sunday.

Paradoxically, resting from the sorting actually does its own work of sorting me out. Whew! And thanks be to God.

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